It’s not immediately obvious, but a fair number of the pictures on my Instagram were captured when I was by myself. Here’s me at the Eiffel Tower.
Right before taking this picture I had ignored the countless peddlers that had tried to sell me cheap selfie sticks and plastic replicas of the Eiffel Tower, and walked by gaggles of tourists that snapped selfies with the selfie sticks that they had presumably bought from said peddlers.
Instead of selfie sticks, I use two kinds of JOBY GorillaPod tripods (a big one and a small one) and the self-timers on my camera or iPhone. I combine those with a little MacGuyver-like ingenuity and patience. You need patience; setup often takes time and there is trial and error involved.
The GorillaPods are light and compact enough to travel with me. You could set them down on the ground as you would any tripod; but what makes these tripods so crucial in my selfie-taking arsenal is that their legs can easily bend and twist in ways that let me play with the angle of the camera and expand the number of objects to which I can attach the tripod.
To take the picture at Eiffel Tower, for example, I found a small bush with a lattice fence nearby. I used the smaller GorillaPod, threaded two of its legs through the fence, and wrapped the legs around it to hold my camera on something that wasn’t the ground. Getting the GorillaPod to stay can take a bit of time and constant rejiggering. I’ve had success with tree branches, handrails, park benches, playgrounds, and, for the picture below, a camping lantern:
Pretty much anything can hold a bendable tripod. Sometimes it just won’t work out and you have to find something else—that’s okay. Obviously, if you don’t think that the GorillaPod setup will hold your camera steady, don’t risk it. No number of Instagram likes can ever wash away the salty tears over a broken 700-dollar camera.
Once the tripod is set up, I use the iPhone’s front-facing camera (or if I use the back camera or my Canon PowerShot G7X, I take a few test pictures) to see how the picture would look and note where I have to stand. In order to set the exposure for when I move into the picture, I focus on something near where I’d be and use the iPhone’s Auto Exposure/Auto Focus (AE/AF) lock feature. You can activate this by tapping on the screen and holding it until the AE/AF box appears. You can then adjust exposure by dragging your finger up or down.
Then let the self-timer start, run into frame, and act casual.
In most cases, I like to just place the tripod on the ground and point the camera up a bit to get neat shots like this:
Or I prop it on a table or chair and point it slightly downward to get shots like this: